Interview with Darryl Sheppard of Hackman
MM-How did this band come about?DS- I originally was trying to put together a project that would have different singers on different songs, but the logistics of that just didn't really work out. Plus, I wanted to have a band that could play live and have the songs sound consistent with the recordings. I originally started playing some of these riffs with my buddy JR Roach on drums (he played drums in Sam Black Church), but due to some other commitments, he had to bow out. So I hooked up with Jase and Todd from Lamont, who were on somewhat of a hiatus, we banged out a bunch of songs, rehearsed our asses off and then went into the studio and recorded everything we had, which became "The New Normal". It was a conscious decision to have the songs mostly instrumental with vocals here and there, the vocals weren't an afterthought. We were trying to do something a little bit different in that respect.
MM-Who are your influences?
DS-One of the biggest influences/inspirations for Hackman is Karma to Burn. We're big fans of how they would have these songs that could have vocals,but didn't. Their songs were just these sick riffs with very minimal soloing, if any at all. We tried to concentrate on coming up with really good riffs and just beating 'em into the ground, lots of repetition. But we all like tons of different bands. Yob, Keelhaul, Pelican, Melvins are some favorites. Godflesh is a definite favorite. And of course shit like Zeppelin, Sabbath, Deep Purple. Basically heavy shit with lots of low end.
MM-Your album is called "The New Normal". What is the story behind the title?
DS-There's not much of a story. We recorded the album in August of 2006, and that summer there was another terrorist threat involving airplanes, which led to the crackdown of not being able to take liquids on planes and stuff like that. And one night on the news they called these regulations "the new normal", like how life would be from now on because of terrorism and whatnot. It just sounded kind of cool, but it really is how life is nowadays. Lots of things that were unheard of a few years ago are now the norm. A few years ago if you told someone they wouldn't be able to take toothpaste on an airplane, they probably would've looked at you like you were completely insane. Well, get used to it. I wouldn't be surprised if strip searches became commonplace within the next 10 years or so. The world is a very different place now than it was 7 or 8 years ago.
MM-You have (I believe) twelve words total on your album and it contains seven songs. Why only twelve words or why didn't you make it an all instrumental album?
DS-We didn't want to be totally instrumental. We wanted to have some vocals just here and there, like just have a chorus and no verse, or have one word>repeated. It was definitely thought out, it wasn't a last minute thing where we said "oh! we forgot the vocals! quick, yell something here!", like some reviews have said. The new songs we're writing are continuing this trend, where there's a verse but no chorus, or just one line somewhere in the middle of the song. We want to write awesome riffs, but break it up a little. The vocals are like another sound really, that's all. We have one song with trumpet, but we're not gonna have trumpet in every song. As for the sound of the vocals, I'm a huge fan of vocals like Eyehategod or Pig Destroyer, so I just decided to scream my head off. Plus, how else are you gonna sing something like "I don't need this shit"? Some people are turned off by the vocals, but we're totally into them and I don't see that changing. I like screaming my head off sometimes, it's a good way to let off steam. All I have to do is ride the train or bus and I have all the>inspiration I need. Less vocals; it's the new normal.
MM-At what point in the writing/recording process did you make the decision to do a largely instrumental album?
DS-Almost from the get-go. Like I said, Karma to Burn was a huge inspiration for us. We wanted to write the sickest riffs we could and just beat the shit out of them, play them for way too long and drive' em into the ground. Any time we write a riff, we generally try to play it way longer than we should. The end of "Chin Music", we play that riff over and over and over, and we just totally get off on it. It's very self indulgent, but that's how we like it.
MM-Have you been touring and what has the response been to your music?
DS-Hackman hasn't toured at all. We've only played a few shows out of state, but the response has been great. People really seem to dig it. We'd like to play more out of state, but it's kind of hard at this point in our lives. Ten years ago, I worked a job where I could take off for a month and drive around the country in a van and make no money and it was awesome. Unfortunately, we can't really do that anymore. As far as other bands we've been in, Lamont toured with Yob and Orange Goblin, and I guess that was pretty awesome. When I was in Roadsaw, we toured with Nebula and that was a blast. Milligram didn't really tour either, we did a week or something like that. Maybe next year Hackman will play some more out of state shows. We'll see. Plus, we don't have a van, which is kind of important as far as touring is concerned. When we play in Boston, we literally carry our equipment from the rehearsal space to the club. I don't think we could walk to Kansas. But you never know. We're Hackman.
MM-Is this the only band that all of you are currently involved in do any of you other projects going on?
DS-Currently, this is the only thing Jase and I are doing musically. Our new drummer Owen is the singer in a band called A Wish For Fire, who don't sound anything like us. But he totally digs the heavy shit and he fits in well with what we're doing. Jase played bass on the new We're All Gonna Die album that's coming out soon, and he played in A Wish For Fire as well for a short time. Sometimes I play solo acoustic shows, but I haven't done that for a while. Jase is also a tatoo artist and Owen is a body piercer, they work at the same shop in Harvard Square called Chameleon. I've written a book called "Black Thanksgiving" that I'm trying to get published.
Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin-Led Zeppelin: Jimmy Page is my favorite guitarist of all time
Fu Manchu or Nebula-Fu Manchu: mainly when Eddie and Ruben were in the band
Candlemass or Cathedral-Cathedral: never really got into Candlemass
Iron Maiden or Judas Priest>-Iron Maiden: I got into them first, but I dig early Priest as wellThe Stooges or the MC5-The Stooges: "Funhouse", that's all i gotta say about that.
MM-What future plans does this band have?
DS-We're writing new songs right now, we have about 5 done. Jase and I also recorded a 17-minute track called "The Blanket" which is broken up into 3 different parts. It's just guitar and bass, no vocals or drums. We're big fans of Earth, plus we didn't have a drummer for a few months and we wanted to keep playing. Basically, we just want to keep writing sick, heavy riffs and play shows now and then. Maybe play more out of state in the future, who knows. Really, all we wanna do is play heavy music, that's about it. Get another album out and go on a walking tour of the U.S.
***After this interview I wrote back like a day later too ask two more questions.
MM-You have a new drummer named Owen. What happened to Todd, the drummer who played on the album?
DS-Todd's a really good drummer and a great guy, but his style wasn't really fitting in with some of the newer songs. Some of the new stuff has weirder time signatures and more angular type of riffs, and Todd is more of a straight-ahead four-on-the-floor type of drummer, although he did a great job on "The New Normal". He definitely contributed to how the album came out. We're still friends with him and everything, and we wish him the best with whatever he ends up doing. Owen is really good at playing off-kilter beats and doing stuff that's unexpected but fits in. We've played one show so far with Owen and he did a great job. We're pretty excited about the new songs, especially one called "Monoceros". That's a special little song for us.
MM-I understand that you had a heart attack last month. How are you doing? How will this effect the future of the band?
DS-The heart attack came out of nowhere, it actually happened at practice in the middle of a song. We had to cancel a couple of shows because of it. It's gonna take me a couple of months to really recover, but I am feeling fine and we have started rehearsing again. But I just have to take it slow, so no shows for a couple of months. Other than that, it shouldn't affect the band too much, except I won't be able to jump off the drum riser and do splits anymore (yeah, right). But I'm feeling good, and all my friends have been really supportive. I guess we just rocked so hard that night that my heart couldn't take it!
Thanks to Darryl for doing this interview and you can check out Hackman at Myspace.